MISS INTERNATIONAL 2016: DELEGATES REVIEW (CONCLUSION)

The five ladies who ended up in the royal court not only were strong onstage (although people may argue if some of them are more stellar than the others below them–there are at least 50 commendable performances, remember?) but the key thing that distinguished them from the rest was the poised manner in which they delivered their speeches.  Not only were their speeches the best, they were also all delivered with cool composure.

4TH RUNNER-UP:  U S A – Kaitryana Leinbach.  This blonde indeed ended up duplicating the placement of her predecessor as she’s another strong consistent performer, this time a vision in silver sequins in both national costume (Statue of Liberty) and evening gown.  Her speech exhibits a maturity beyond her 18 years of age:  “This organization is founded to promote goodwill to all people.  But how can we truly make a difference?  To answer this I’ll tell you a story my father always told me–at 211°F water is really hot but at 212° water starts to boil.  And boiling water causes steam that can power a locomotive and even an entire country.  And what was the difference?  Just one degree.  And all of us can be that one degree to inspire change in the world… If chosen, please send me on long-term charity missions for the entire year.  I would like to pack my workweek, put my hair in braids, and work hard to bring hope to every community in the world.  Because to me, hope is disaster relief, hope is social justice, equality, and freedom.  Hope is service to humanity.  And service gives purpose and meaning to human life.”  It’s a very creative speech and shows a motivated, idealistic lady.  Though I doubt this pageant is capable of sending the winner for such long-term missions, I hope despite the outcome of the US election, she keeps the sentiments she expressed in her speech and make a difference in society despite the potential spectres and obstacles inherent in a Republican Donald Trump administration.  Who knows she can eventually succeed where Hillary Clinton had failed.

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3RD RUNNER-UP:  NICARAGUA – Brianny Chamorro.  She started garnering buzz after the forum, as it turns out she has an excellent command of English and is an eloquent speaker.  On top of that, she earned Best National Costume for her blue-and-gold intricately embroidered Mayan outfit.  She also kept up well with the stage dynamos, garnering compliments for her gold sequined evening gown.  She earned her Top Five status with her superbly composed speech, pointing out that if she becomes Miss International, she will demonstrate that “beauty is about having a good heart, about continually seeking opportunities to develop yourself as a person, about leading a leader through example, and about using your unique qualities to serve, contribute and influence others in positive ways.  I would like to contribute to this world by promoting the values of respect and tolerance.  We need a world that values and appreciates diversity of cultures and beliefs that they are, and I believe the only way to do it is through tolerance, respect, and acceptance.

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2ND RUNNER-UP:  INDONESIA – Felicia Hwang.  She delivered on her status as favorite with her grace, beauty, and elegance.  This is especially evident in her stunning Chinese porcelain-inspired blue-and-white evening gown with cape, which earned her the Best Dresser award.  I have to quibble that the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her walk in the swimsuit round was that she earns the “Flapper”* award for this pageant. For her speech, she talked about how “Miss International symbolizes the core values that all women should posses: love, dignity, and respect for diversity.  I am confident that I am able to uphold the duty of Miss International by bridging the spirit of goodwill and peace to all nations.  Why is unity in diversity so important?  Because the world has been faced with wars, terrorism, and culture (sic) tensions and these causing millions of people to suffer.  We have enough wake-up calls.  It is time for us to change the culture of war and let us respect each other and embrace diversity for a certain future.”  She opened and closed her speech with Japanese greetings which won over the audience.  Another well-composed, top-notch speech.  It’s just that two other ladies gave better speeches that touched on a “key theme”…

*”Flappers” are the fashionable women in the 1920s–this era is characterized by flattened chests, hence the term.  It’s the opposite of my BB Sweepstakes award (which goes to Tunisia this year).

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1ST RUNNER-UP:  AUSTRALIA – Alexandra Britton.  She wasn’t in the radar of most pageant fans and pundits, and I thought even though in my preview article that she’s a good looking stand-out, I though USA had the edge as the blonde-most-likely-to-go-farthest.  Albeit her stage moves are simple, it turns out she makes maximum impact with them and delivered the goods when it counts.  But she then surged past perceived favorites when she delivered her speech.  After graciously thanking the Miss International Organization and Japan, her message goes like this:  “Every woman here represents her own country, her own culture, and every one is different from the next.  It is our differences that makes our world a more exciting and beautiful place.  Being an educator I have a love of learning and a passion to spread the message of love and acceptance, to embrace diversity, especially to our younger generation.  As Miss International 2016, I will inspire the young, in the hope that they will shape the world into the world that it should be–a world of peace, mutual respect and understanding.”  I’ve noticed that it seems this pageant has secret code words that the judges would look for in speeches and if the semifinalist mention that code word, they will be justly rewarded.  This lady is one of the two who found it–this year’s code word is “understanding”, and because of that, she upset the expected 1-2 Philippine-Indonesia finish and sandwiched herself between them.

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MISS INTERNATIONAL 2016:  PHILIPPINES – Kylie Versoza.  She’s always been one of the favorites to win this pageant from the time she garnered the right to represent the Philippines in this pageant.  She cast an indelible spell during her performance at Bb. Pilipinas that time at the Araneta Coliseum, and I was expecting that Kylie to surface at the Tokyo Dome to slay the competition.  But let me play devil’s advocate as when I saw her in swimsuit and evening gown, not that I was let down, but I wasn’t as blown away as I was back in Bb. Pilipinas.  I was surprised to see her in a one-piece swimsuit–sure there is a bit of a tease with the low-cut front (which she used her hair and her sash to cover for modesty’s sake), but in my opinion what saved the presentation was her stage moves, as the swimsuit for me didn’t really flatter her figure–Poland also appeared in a one-piece swimsuit, but hers is one that flatters her shape as it’s sleek and streamlined and Kylie’s wasn’t.

Now what about the light blue Francis Libiran gown she wore?  It is well made the way all Francis Libiran gowns are impeccably styled.  But it has a simple silhouette that I felt at first glance that Kylie missed a golden opportunity to decisively pull away from the pack, especially with the presence of Indonesia and her superb embroidered “Chinese porcelain” blue gown.  Still I know she did well in this round.  Then upon further reflection, the gown color also evoked a classic gown almost four decades ago–Miss Universe 1980 3rd runner-up Chat Silayan‘s Renee Salud number, with shoulder straps, a looser fit at the leg area and sans shawl and chiffon bottom.

Chat Silayan at Miss Universe 1980 (image sourced from normannorman.com)

As I have mentioned when I discussed Canada before, I initially thought Canada might win this competition, even though Kylie also delivered a sterling speech, as follows:  “Three things come to mind when I think of Miss International: culture, education, and international understanding. These 3 work together to make the brand of the Miss International beauty pageant relevant to the global community and to our time.  If I become Miss International 2016, I will devote myself to cultural understanding and international understanding because I believe that it is by developing in each of us sensitivity to other cultures that we expand our horizons, tolerate difference, and appreciate diversity. All this enables us to achieve international understanding. And I believe that I am prepared to take on this responsibility.”  It turns out Kylie unlocked the secret code word for this year, “understanding”, and now realizing how Canada was nervous in her delivery, it does turn out that Kylie indeed delivered the best speech of the afternoon/evening.  Listening and reading it again, it also dawned on me that Kylie embodied what she said, especially with the way she studied and embraced Japanese culture in her gorgeous fashion shoots (that is why I nicknamed her “Kylie Namiyumi“), and her refined, deferential mannerisms onstage revealed how she was able to effectively evoke the modern Yamato Nadeshiko, the Japanese feminine ideal, and that might be the deciding factor that helped her ultimately win our 6th Miss International crown.

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There are also a couple of portents that also indicated Kylie’s destiny in this pageant.  First, there was a photograph circulating where Miss International 2015 Edymar Martinez graciously helped Kylie out with the cape of her evening gown in one of the gala events prior to the final.  Then, the style of gown that Edymar wore as she handed her crown made me recall Kylie’s Bb. Pilipinas gown–yes, Edymar’s poofier and frillier, but the silhouette is very similar.  It looks like Edymar indeed took a liking for Kylie as she was obviously happy handing over her crown to her.  I’m so glad that even if I thought Kylie was only performing at 90% potency, it is enough for her beat a formidable batch and clinch the crown.

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L: Kylie in her Francis Libiran Bb. Pilipinas gown (image courtesy of Bruce Casanova for Bb. Pilipinas); R: Edymar Martinez (image courtesy of Jun Sato for Getty Images).

This year’s batch provided a high standard that would be a tough act to follow for subsequent editions.  It will be a tough challenge for national directors to field contenders that will hold up to the ladies that we have seen here, all stage-polished and mostly eloquent.  This for me is one of the most exciting Miss International pageants for the ages (even despite the stubbornness to stick to tradition).  Anyway, looking forward to see if all the runners-up would be present next year as Kylie hands over her crown to her successor.  For now, though, I’m still at a high celebrating her victory.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

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The royal court: 3rd runner-up Nicaragua, 1st runner-up Australia, Miss International 2016 Philippines, 2nd runner-up Indonesia, and 4th runner-up USA.

All images courtesy of Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2016: DELEGATES REVIEW (PART 4)

We have to face it that at least 50 of the 69 contestants stepped up their game, so it’s a matter of quibbling and personal tastes that determined the Top 15.  Still, I wish three ladies in this combo were yanked away to make way for United Kingdom, Hawaii, and of course, Venezuela–oh, I’ll still continue to lament the absence of “Marmegantina” in this group.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Cynthia Nuñez.  I think her ticket to making the final cut is her buffed figure and statuesque frame–I think she might have placed second in Miss Perfect Body behind the winner Moldova.  Because otherwise I don’t really see other strong reasons why she belongs here–her exotic face is not really to my liking (but then perhaps the Japanese judges dug that), and her speech is very shallow and generic, simply thanking Japan and that she will use her reign to help others.  It was the weakest speech of the Top 15, but I think the judges of course appreciate the effort that she tries to speak English and English is not her native language.  Still, Puerto RIcan fans may have reasons to gripe that why the judges choose her over their bet, Gabriela Berrios, especially since she drew raves with her evening gown over this lady’s nude-colored long-sleeved sheath gown.  Yes, I’m adding another fodder for those PR-vs-DR culture battles.

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EL SALVADOR – Elizabeth Cader.  I didn’t notice her that much prior to the finals, as I felt the likes of Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala (especially with her pedigree) were stronger.  But she proved to be very polished onstage, with the “Precious Lara Quigaman” proportions that created the illusion that she’s taller than she actually is.  But probably the key why she made the cut may have occurred from the International Forum a few days back, as I think she cited the fact that she is the president of a charitable foundation back home helping children, and that is what she pointed out in her speech, along with heartfelt thanks to their culture and hospitality.  Still, I question, her over “Marmegantina”?

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RUSSIA – Alisa Manenok.  She was obviously flustered being chosen in the Top 15, and her nerves showed as she talked about her dream of speaking in front of the United Nations to ask leaders in the world to engage in a global dialogue and connection, and tacked on a message about helping hungry children and people in need, and she’s willing to do this as “I don’t need the Miss International crown in order to help others.”  It’s heartfelt, yes, but still the second weakest speech behind Dominican Republic.  But her saving grace was the way she walks on stage dreamily like a snow queen in national costume and evening gown–which is apt as she comes from the snowy city of Vladivostok (located near Manchuria in China and North Korea).  I’m not as into her face as most, but I do understand her ingenue appeal.

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ARGENTINA – Yoana Don.  She has been standing out in many of the pageant activities, so I’m not that surprised she made the final cut.  She delivered strong stage chops onstage, though I quibble about her choice of swimsuit–yes, it’s a sexy one-piece, but the bottom is actually a thong style that fully exposes her booty–it’s a good thing she had the good sense of using her shawl as she turned around to walk back to cover it.  For her speech, it’s obvious English is not her first language but her message in halting English covers the sentiments to end conflict and dying children, that education is important as it’s the one that  sets people free, and that she wants to promote Japanese culture and values all over the world, and added that we don’t need officials to change the world, but us and if we have “respect, love, and a big smile” and these things are the essence of beauty, coming from our soul and mind.  It’s a bit rambling and all over the place, and almost incoherent, but I’m sure many have appreciated the effort.

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FINLAND – Emilia Seppänen.  It is expected that a reasonably good looking Finnish girl, regardless of level of polish, will rank high in this pageant whenever it is held in Japan.  As it is, she earned her keep as she did deliver a polished presentation onstage as she has more than adequate stage chops.  Her speech was short and sweet, simply thanking Miss International organization and talk about making friends. and just linking them with what she’ll do as Miss International, simply bring the world together  and connecting and making friends across cultural borders.  She halted as if wanting to say more but decided to leave it at that and conclude her speech with another thank you.   In other editions, that would be enough for her to advance to the Top Five, but with so many well-delivered heartfelt speeches with conviction, and with a relative lack of depth in her message making it this far is enough achievement.

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JAPAN – Jyunna Yamagata.  She is one of the strongest Japanese representatives to this pageant in several years, with an elegant demeanor and a pretty face.  She especially looks impeccable in her red gown.  She memorized a speech in English and it goes like this:  “Last year I have a dream of being here and stand on this stage. and ht now that dream came true.  To be honest, I say no one has ever imagined that I was gonna be here today.  But here I am, accomplished the biggest goal in my life.  This experience taught me a lesson–that no matter what dream you have, no matter how hard it looks like, trust me, that dream you have is possible.  As Miss International 2016, I want to share this lesson that  I have learned, I want to encourage people to chase their dreams–that is my next dream.  And now, the ticket of my new journey is right here on this stage.  I’m capable to log that new ticket so that my new journey begins.”  It’s cute and sweet, though not really substantial as the other speeches out there.  Still her kawaii-ness and elegance made her inclusion fully justified.

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POLAND – Magdalena Bieńkowska.  Her stage presentation is very simple and polished, but her fresh, youthful ingenue beauty speaks volumes that it’s no surprise she’s regarded as one of the front-runners (and a member of my “Glorious Eight”).  But one might wonder how well her speech would go, as usually this is not typically a Polish beauty queen’s strongest suit.   But it turns out she acquitted herself very well.  As most of the finalists thanked the organization and Japan in general, she took the extra step of thanking specifically her chaperone.  Then her main message is as follows:  “If I become Miss International 2016, I would like to get involved in charity and to make people smile, because that’s make me smile and happy [sic].  I would like to show that beauty is not based on how we look like but it’s who we are and even more.  Life is full of beauty, we just need to look around–it’s in beautiful nature, smiling people, smiling children, and in here I learned what real beauty is and I would love to share it.”  It’s not as substantial as the eventual Top Five, but it’s a good, heartfelt, sincere speech nevertheless.

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THAILAND – Pattiya Pongthai.  If based on speech alone, I would’ve ranked Poland above this lady.  Her speech was simply a message of appreciation in behalf of the entire Thai nation to the imperial family of Japan for their condolences for the death of their king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.  She did not express the implicit question of what she’ll do if she becomes Miss International, but that message is relevant and heartfelt, and we cannot begrudge her for that.  But what is most memorable about her is her stage presentation, especially in her lilac evening gown with a dramatic sheer cape.  She may not be as pretty as her predecessors, but the magic she weaves onstage proved indelible and sensational and this was how she earned her spot, sustaining a streak enjoyed by this country for three years and counting.

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MEXICO – Geraldine Ponce.  Though Ilma Urrutia‘s daughter failed to advance, her essence was still present in the Top 15 as we have “Xildamena” (fused with the essences of Miss Universe 2010 Ximena Navarrete and Miss Earth 2003 Dania Prince).  She was another consistently strong contender all afternoon, and I’m glad she’s one of the “Glorious Eight” who made it.  Now, people raved about her lacy lilac number with those distinctive scalloped sleeves.  To me, the sleeves are polarizing–I actually dislike them as they registered to me as rags.  Still,s he delivered it with aplomb.  Now, regarding her speech, it was good–“I am a regular woman with a regular life.  However I have big dreams.  Love is the main inspiration for everything I do… [whoever is chosen] must represent a woman with dignity.  We are not superior but neither inferior compared to men.  The next Miss International will have to fight to have every woman has a place they deserve in this world… and I am committed to fight for it.”  As good as it is, the speeches delivered by the eventual Top Five delivered on the mix of lofty goals and heartfelt conviction that I’m not that surprised she didn’t end up in the Top Five.  Still a commendable performance nonetheless.

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CANADA – Amber Bernachi.  I was expecting United Kingdom to overshadow her a bit, but she did deliver a bigger impact onstage during finals night, especially with her sexy trim figure in swimsuit (and her maple leaf Victoria’s Secret styled costume) and that low-cut red satin halter gown with a hemline that recalls Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach‘s winning blue gown.  When I was watching the livestream of this pageant, I was in an internet cafe that only has loudspeakers and no headphones–so I was watching surrounded by noisy game players.  So at first, I thought she gave the most impressive speech–If she becomes Miss International, there are two things she would like to support.  “One, is the importance of education–I would like to support that and teach the younger generation as well as our generation how important educating yourself is, as well as visualizing your dreams and achieving anything you want because anything is possible, I’ve learned that now today, so thank you.  Secondly, I would like to promote the importance of equality–equality not just of gender, but race, ethnicity and religion.”  As they were announcing the winner, I was thinking maybe she would end up becoming her country’s first ever Miss International.  But listening in a quieter environment, I realized her otherwise superb speech was marred by occasional displays of nerves, and these nerves were that “one degree” that may have prevented her from garnering Top Five honors (more on that later).

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Miss Universe 2016 Pia Wurtzbach (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization)

All images courtesy of Jory Rivers for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  THE ROYAL COURT

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2016: DELEGATES REVIEW (PART 3)

NORWAY – Camilla Ellinor Devik.  I found her mother’s maiden surname is De Souza so her dark complexion may be either of Angolan, Brazilian or Mozambican origin.  She’s another one who delivered a strong performance, but let’s face it–as nice as her flowy baby blue gown was, there were other gowns that made stronger impact.  Still, a commendable performance overall.

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PANAMA – Daniela Ochoa.  Here is another gorgeous Latina who delivered a strong performance, but couldn’t make the cut.  Again it’s the case of too many steller girls but too few slots to put them in a better spotlight.

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PERU – Danea Panta.  See PANAMA

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PORTUGAL – Carina Marques Frazão.  She’s not as polished as the other contenders out there, but she actually held her own very well.  She would’ve made more inroads if this was, say, 2013, but this year is just loaded with strong performers that she’s easily overshadowed.

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PUERTO RICO – Gabriela Berrios.  I think this veteran delivered a stellar performance and I do get the hype and the frustration of Puerto RIcan fans when she was then shut out (again).  I think the Japanese-dominated panel was torn who to advance between her and Dominican Republic, and in this instance, they favored the Dominican (though I would’ve probably have it the other way around, especially with that lovely lacey evening gown).  It made me recall those the Flama videos featuring battles between who’s the best between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and one Joanna Rants video which declared both are basically the same.

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SIERRA LEONE – Maseray Zelda Swarray.  Here is another African lady whose features are clearly not to the Japanese tastes.  It doesn’t help that her figure is considered not toned enough for pageant standards, and she’s a bit unpolished.  Still it’s nice to have some radical diversity in this mix, and with her bright spirit as experienced by her peers, she was awarded Miss International Africa.

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SINGAPORE – Wang Hui-qi.  She’s actually one of the stronger representatives fielded by this country in this pageant, but still not enough for this country to catch a break, as there are stellar Asians this year.

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SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Michaela Menkyova.  She sported one of the weakest gowns in this batch, an obviously off-the-rack white minidress-with-train-to-qualify-as-a-gown.  Besides the gown, some would also quibble that her figure may not be as well-toned and she’s not as pretty as, say, Poland.  Still if given enough support and polish she could shine.

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SOUTH AFRICA – Tharina Botes.  She’s delivered a strong performance in all categories, but still not a standout enough to bring forth her country’s breakthrough in this pageant.

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SPAIN – Anabel Delgado Torres.  This country is traditionally a powerhouse in this pageant, but it failed to make serious inroads in recent years.  This lady’s features are rather angular and plain, making her one of the weakest representatives fielded by this country.  Still I give her credit for being polished onstage.

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SRI LANKA – Ayesha Fernando.  Her red gown ins nice, but she’s obviously raw, espeically in swimsuit.

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SWEDEN – Maria Taipaleenmäki.  See NETHERLANDS and NEW ZEALAND.  There are simply other blondes that impressed the judging panel more than these ladies.

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TAIWAN – Ai-Ning Tan.  She’s the rawest among the contestants in this batch.

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TUNISIA – Hiba Telmoudi.  Is she another talisman like the USA’s Olivia Jordan?  She competed with Megan Young at Miss World 2013 and now she competed with a Filipina who ended up winning the pageant.  Anyway, she’s a tad voluptuous for Japanese tastes, and a tad less polished onstage.  This country enjoyed a heyday back between 1996-2000 as it made the final cut four times in that period (it only missed 1999) and got as far as 1st runner-up in 1996.  Another piquant note–considering that back in Bali she had to be modestly draped in sarong in the Beach Beauty roudn, her swimsuit in this pageant revealed a lot of cleavage.

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UKRAINE – Viktoria Klose.  Prior to the pageant finals, I preferred this brunette over Russia.  She was actually solid onstage, but I realize what made her fell short is flaws in styling, especially sporting those dark platform heels during swimsuit and evening gown–they are called “hooker heels” and I realize those shoes do make one look cheap.

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UNITED KINGDOM – Romy Simpkins.  I bought into the hype about her, and I still maintains she delivered on the hype, though I have to agree Canada overshadowed her.  I think she missed the final cut by very little, though I still wish she made the cut instead of say, Russia, El Salvador, and Dominican Republic.  I could find any fault with her performance at all.

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VENEZUELA – Jessica Duarte.  I’m still lamenting the elimination of “Marmegantina”.  I’m still mesmerized by her gorgeousness and I so adore her red evening gown with elaborate dramatic train–for me it’s the second most impressive gown of the night.  So what gives?

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VIETNAM – Phạm Ngọc Phương Linh.  Here is another pretty Asian who delivered a consistently sterling performance but there is room for only four Asians in the Top 15.

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All images courtesy of Jory Rivers for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  THE TOP 15